Despite visa exemption exclusion, Iraqis top Arab visitors to Turkey

Despite visa exemption exclusion, Iraqis top Arab visitors to Turkey

Shafaq News / The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism declared, on Monday, that more than 61,000 Iraqi visitors arrived in Turkey in the past 11 months of 2023. This announcement closely followed the Turkish government's decision, made a day prior, to exempt four Gulf countries from entry visas to its territories, a move that did not include Iraq.

According to data, the Ministry reported that "the number of Iraqi visitors to Turkey from January to November 2023 reached 61,547, marking an 18% decline compared to the same period in 2022."

Highlighting tourism trends, the Ministry noted that "Iraq led among Arab nations in tourist visits to Turkey during the last 11 months. Saudi Arabia followed with 50,249 tourists, indicating a 27% decrease from the previous year. Lebanon stood third with 14,689 tourists, showing a 19% decline compared to the prior year."

Further statistics from the Ministry outlined the visitor numbers from various Gulf and Arab countries. Jordan accounted for 12,364 tourists, a notable 46% decrease compared to the same period last year. Kuwait followed with 10,721 tourists, a 39% drop, while the UAE recorded 3,125 tourists, marking a significant 52% decrease. Bahrain recorded 2,510 tourists, an 8% drop, while Yemen and Qatar recorded 2,231 and 1,892 tourists, respectively, marking a 20% and a substantial 66% decrease.

The Ministry emphasized that "Arab countries collectively constituted 9% of the total tourists visiting Turkey during the last 11 months."

Yesterday, Turkey took the step to exempt citizens from six countries, including Gulf states, from entry visas for tourism purposes. The move aims to stimulate incoming tourist traffic and foster revenue growth within this pivotal sector.

The countries benefiting from this visa exemption include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, the United States, and Canada, per a presidential decree published in the official gazette.

Furthermore, Turkey had previously exempted Qatari citizens in 2016 and Kuwaiti citizens in 2017, effectively granting visa-free entry to citizens of all Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

As stipulated in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's signed decree, the visa exemption permits citizens from these countries to stay for 90 days within 180 days.

On the other hand, repeated calls from the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged Turkish authorities to streamline visa-granting procedures and residency permit renewals for Iraqi citizens.

In April 2023, Turkish authorities hiked visa fees for Iraqis, which drew frustration from tourism industry stakeholders.

It is noteworthy that Turkey remains a significant global tourist destination, having ranked sixth worldwide in receiving tourists, hosting 52.5 million visitors in 2019, according to the World Tourism Organization.

Previously, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism disclosed that Turkey received 52,742,526 visitors during the past 11 months of the current year.

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